Hunting for Birds in the Dead of Winter: the 110th Christmas Bird Count
Dec 19, 2009
The temperature was hovering a little below minus 20 C (a degree or so below 0F) as the sun was rising this morning. At the entrance to Mount Royal Cemetery I passed a group of hardy souls, shivering as they prepared to take part in the annual Christmas Bird Count.
The counts began in 1900 when American ornithologist, Frank Chapman, looking for a way to counter what was then an American tradition, the Christmas bird "shoot," organized 27 friends to go looking for birds. They recorded 18,000 individual birds from 90 species. Last year 59,8132 observers took part in 2,124 counts in North America, and elsewhere, including the first one in Antarctica. This year the counts--not usually held on Christmas Day any more, will be held between Monday, December 14 and Tuesday, January 5.
The first Montreal count was held 1931, and has continued every year (except for four wartime years.) Back when we first came to Montreal we took part a couple of years, but after the kids were born we stopped going: it's hard to interest a small child in being quiet while the adults search the forest or the fields with binocs.
But it was a pleasure to see the counters out this morning. They invited me to join them, but I opted for heading home and getting warm again. I told them, however, that they'd given me the idea of today's Saturday photos for my blog. The pix were taken in Kamloops in early November: some Bird Counters in Quebec will likely find Canada geese today since they've begun staying around longer and longer, but they're almost sure not to find black-billed find magpies (bottom photo) since their range is in the western part of the continent.
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About the reviewer
Mary Soderstrom is a Montreal-based writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her new collection of short stories, Desire Lines: Stories of Love and Geography, will be published by Oberon Press in November, … more